Pumpkin rot is not pretty. In fact, it is often the reason why most families don’t carve their jack o’ lantern until just a day or two before Halloween.
However, one local family says a common household item – lemon juice – works wonders in helping keep a carved pumpkin looking better for longer.
“The best tip is to use lemon juice inside to keep it from going bad,” said Michelle Masters, of Martinez.
A mixture of equal parts lemon juice and water sprayed on the inside and outside of the pumpkin will help preserve the pumpkin. The acidic mixture hardens the outside and helps protect the pumpkin against the elements.
According to the Web site Pumpkin Patches and More, which tracks hundreds of pumpkin patches across the country, bleach and petroleum jelly can also be used to give a carved pumpkin extended life.
“The intact skin of a pumpkin protects it until you carve it,” notes Pumpkin Patches and More. “But then various organisms – fungi, bacteria, molds, protozons, insects – can get inside and start to break it down.”
Additionally, oxygen in the air “can also enter and break down the pumpkin. Simple dehydration will begin the moment the pumpkin is carved. All of this will turn your carved young, happy pumpkin face into a sad, old man in several days’ time!”
To stop pumpkin “aging,” Pumpkin Patches and More recommends making a bleach solution of one tablespoon bleach to one quart of water in a spray bottle and liberally applying it to both the inside and all cut areas of the pumpkin. This solution acts as a sterilizer and will kill much of the surface bacteria and mold that can cause pumpkin rot.
After about 20 minutes – enough time to allow the bleach solution to sink into the pumpkin and dry – apply a generous layer of petroleum jelly to the carved and cut surfaces of the pumpkin. This will aid in keeping out bacteria and mold, as well as minimize the drying out of the pumpkin. Excess jelly should be wiped off of the pumpkin.
Finally, Pumpkin Patches and More recommends keeping pumpkins out of direct sunlight and keeping them as cool as possible.